KZN clubs out on a show­case

MTN8 a plat­form for United, Ar­rows to prove they are elite league wor­thy

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - KAM­LESH GO­SAI

FOR a change, two KwaZu­luNatal sides will com­pete in the sea­son-open­ing MTN8 cup com­pe­ti­tion when Golden Ar­rows visit de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Bid­vest Wits tonight and Mar­itzburg United trek to Pre­to­ria for a Sun­day af­ter­noon date with Mamelodi Sun­downs.

“As a club, this tour­na­ment is a plat­form for us to be recog­nised, and to show that we are not here to fight a rel­e­ga­tion scrap ev­ery sea­son,” said Mar­itzburg chair­man Fa­rook Kado­dia. “Be­ing at this level is a big dif­fer­ence to be­ing in the rel­e­ga­tion zone and fin­ish­ing 10th.”

Mar­itzburg just this week con­firmed they had ne­go­ti­ated a deal with the Msun­duzi Mu­nic­i­pal­ity to re­ceive fi­nan­cial sup­port of R9 mil­lion each year for the next three years. The amount doesn’t cover their costs, said Kado­dia, and there­fore fea­tur­ing in the MTN8 is vi­tal to rais­ing the value of their brand.

“The com­pe­ti­tion speaks vol­umes, with a win­ner-take­sall prize (R8m), which is a great in­cen­tive. At the same time, the value of our club’s as­sets and the profile of the team goes higher,” added Kado­dia.

The last time they ap­peared in this cup, Mar­itzburg avoided rel­e­ga­tion on the fi­nal day of the sea­son. Since then, two coaches have parted with the Mid­lands club, al­though in Fadlu Davids, there’s con­ti­nu­ity af­ter the former as­sis­tant coach was ap­pointed full-time head coach for his first se­nior coach­ing post.

The former club cap­tain and striker has a sta­ble foun­da­tion to build on, al­though Mar­itzburg are still search­ing for a re­place­ment for play­maker Kurt Len­tjies, who left to join Chippa United. The club is set to re­lease Zim­bab­wean mid­fielder Bless­ing Moyo to cre­ate space for a for­eign play­maker, said Kado­dia.

Visa de­lays means the tar­geted player has yet to ar­rive for a fi­nal as­sess­ment. How­ever, Davids will go to Pre­to­ria with one player who has much to prove. Ex-Sun­downs de­fender Siyanda Xulu will en­joy run­ning out in fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory, es­pe­cially af­ter two years of in­ac­tiv­ity at Kaizer Chiefs. With reg­u­lar cen­tral de­fender, Kenyan in­ter­na­tional, Brian Onyango, side­lined with per­ma­nent res­i­dence ap­pli­ca­tion mat­ters Xulu could come into the se­lec­tion frame.

Ar­rows, who squeaked into the com­pe­ti­tion by fin­ish­ing eighth last term, en­joy bet­ter con­ti­nu­ity than their neigh­bours.

Coach Clin­ton Larsen con­tin­ues in his role with a squad that has not lost any key fig­ures.

In­stead they man­aged to re­tain Zim­bab­wean pair, at­tack­ing mid­fielder Ku­dak­washe Ma­hachi and striker Knox Mu­tizwa.

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